“Access to land is the number one barrier for people of color to feed our communities healthy, fresh food, ” according to the Northeast Farmers of Color Land Trust (NEFOC LT). In the Northeast, nearly one hundred percent of farmland is owned by white landowners. NEFOC LT is working to fix this problem.
Created for and by Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), the NEFOC LT’s vision is to purchase land and lease it out as farmland to farmers and land stewards of color. By returning land stewardship to BIPOC communities, NEFOC LT hopes to establish food and land sovereignty, heal the impact of colonial harm, and, through regenerative agriculture practices, create a carbon drawdown in the region.
NEFOC LT is a project of the Northeast Farmers of Color network (NEFOC), an informal alliance of Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and Asian farmers in New England and Upstate New York. Since they began meeting in 2017, NEFOC’s numbers have more than doubled; it now connects over 270 small scale farmers and land stewards.
NEFOC LT is a hybrid model land trust, which means that it fuses the roles of the community land trust model (holding land for a community to share) and the conservation land trust model (holding land in order to conserve it). Most land trusts emphasize one role or the other; for NEFOC LT these roles are intertwined. The land trust grants stewardship of land to BIPOC farmers and conserves the land by rematriating native seeds, growing and protecting native species, practicing regenerative farming techniques, and advocating for just environmental policies. By leasing land to BIPOC small-scale farmers, NEFOC shields it from nutrient depletion, agricultural runoff, and other harmful effects of industrial agriculture.
In order to accomplish their interconnected goals of Indigenous sovereignty, land access, food sovereignty, and conservation, NEFOC LT takes four different approaches with their work:
- Land acquisition: In the coming years, NEFOC LT plans to acquire more than 2,000 acres of land to lease out to BIPOC farmers, as well as a central piece of land for use as farmland, child care, restoration areas and more.
- Honoring Indigenous sovereignty: NEFOC LT wants to use the land it acquires in accordance with the wishes of the Indigenous nations to which it belongs. To this end, NEFOC LT is building relationships with Indigenous communities in the Northeast to ensure that it is repairing colonial harm — not repeating it.
- Farmer resources and training: NEFOC LT is helping farmers of color thrive by linking them to resources, training, education, and markets. They have reached thousands of people with their workshops, keynotes, and other events.
- Advocacy: NEFOC LT is advocating for a just climate transition, BIPOC land access and Indigenous land stewardship at local and national levels.
You can support NEFOC LT and learn more about their work on their website.